Sheriff details No. 1 law enforcement concern for St. John in 2018
Published 12:15 am Wednesday, January 24, 2018
LAPLACE — ‘Drugs.’
That’s how Sheriff Mike Tregre answered when asked what his chief law enforcement concern was for St. John the Baptist Parish in 2018.
“In St. John Parish, for years, we have been arresting the guy standing on the corner with a small amount of drugs, and he was being released before it got dark,” Sheriff Mike Tregre said. “Not only was it discouraging to law enforcement, it was discouraging to that citizen that was calling us with the tip to tell us about it.
Consistent but dangerous problems include a proliferation of home meth labs, mojo and opioids.
• Two Reserve residents were arrested in December after St. John detectives said deputies discovered a meth lab in the couple’s East 17th Street home.
The Sheriff’s Office noted a “staggering amount of materials used to manufacture methamphetamine” was discovered inside a home shared with the suspects’ two children, who are in second grade and prekindergarten, respectively.
• Dr. Christy Montegut, St. John Parish coroner, recently detailed an alarming spike in the number of local overdose deaths involving illegal narcotic and opiate drugs. He said autopsy statistics showed in 2014 and 2015 there were three deaths each year due to accidental overdose from opiate drugs. In 2016 the death toll increased to six. By early August of 2017, there were already six confirmed overdose deaths.
“The source of these drugs in all of these cases appears to be from illegal black market sources and not from legitimate doctor prescriptions,” Montegut said. “Heroin and Fentanyl have been identified as the causes found at autopsy with Fentanyl 100 times more potent than heroin and much more lethal.”
A dangerous national trend, he concluded, is making itself known in St. John Parish.
• Authorities said a LaPlace man drove a Nissan Frontier into Fobb and Sons Shoe Repair on Cardinal Street in LaPlace, igniting a small blaze. The victim said police told him the driver was smoking Mojo, which authorities commonly identify as synthetic marijuana.
“People are calling me when they have a loved one in a bad way,” Tregre said. “All I can offer is jail. That is it, but it is a form of rehab.”
According to Tregre, a new approach, with better training and better partnerships is needed to dent the local drug problem.
Recently released crime data shows there were 1,051 crimes reported in St. John Parish in 2017, compared to 1,262 in 2016.
Many of the crimes were ignited by drug demand, either through dealers pushing narcotics or those addicted to drugs doing anything they could to score their next high.
“Now, we’re going up the food chain, and it appears it is starting to work,” Tregre said. “When we get the suppliers to the street level and we catch them, it dries up and gets quiet. But the thing is people dealing in illegal narcotics are very creative. They will change what they do quickly once they learn what we did to capture them. Once it goes to court, they find out.”
Tregre said the Sheriff’s Office is working closely with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), meeting at a near daily pace over investigations that are soon to close with federal indictments, “hopefully before Mardi Gras.”
It’s time for greater impact, according to Tregre, who said St. John residents with loved ones suffering from drug addiction do not know where to turn.
Many of those arrested for drug possession and drug dealing post bond and are released, leaving law enforcement and their loved ones struggling for answers on what to do as the court process plays out.
“I wish there were more rehab facilities,” Tregre said. “Rehabilitation is what is missing, not just in St. John but the whole state. We have to find a way to invest in rehabilitation.”
In the meantime, the St. John Sheriff’s Office is making a concerted effort to move up the ladder with all drug cases.
“That’s what we’ve been doing, and you will see in a little while how successful we are,” Tregre said.
“I think we are winning, and that is how we are going to keep making St. John safer. I feel very good about the future.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the first in a four-part series examining crime in St. John the Baptist Parish and those working to make the community safer.)